Prescription Drug Abuse: Epidemic

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) strongly advises considering behavioral therapy when treating prescription drug addiction alongside detoxification for effective results. The following are the behavioral therapy services that one may take into account:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy – This helps patients whose environment or circumstances encourages drug abuse. They receive advice on how to avoid and identify such situations.
  • Multidimensional family therapy – This is intended for adolescents and adults of a younger age that have issues with drug dependency and addictions. The family is also involved in improving overall wellness.
  • Motivational Interviewing – This involves evaluation processes aimed at determining the level of preparedness and willingness to start therapy or engage treatment.
  • Motivational Incentives – Positive reinforcement is used to help victims abstain from drugs

Some therapy centers provide residential facilities implying that one has to be prepared to endure the long-term commitments. The better side of these centers is that they are highly suitable for severe prescription drug abusers.

On an average, most Therapeutic Communities (TCs) run for 6 to 12 months and will involve a community-based treatment where other residents and staffs contribute towards the same.

Do not be misguided to think that all therapeutic and treatment centers are voluntary. Some drug abusers attend therapy or TCs not because they made a choice but due to stipulations of the law. Some may also be subject to regular checkups to determine their sobriety.

Most Commonly Abused Prescription Medications

The categories of most addictive prescription drugs are:

  • Opioids
  • CNS depressants
  • Stimulants

Opioids commonly referred to as narcotic painkillers attach to opioid receptors, proteins found in the entire body system (brain, spinal cord, and organs). Morphine derivatives reduce pain in the affected body part once the opioids get attached. The major downside of this medication is the influence caused on the part of the brain that is responsible for controlling pleasure. This, therefore, increases the chances of addiction.

Opioids are common prescriptions for patients suffering from traumatic injuries. They are also used after a surgical procedure. They also hold the title of being the most abused prescription drugs. Some of the most abused opioids include codeine, methadone, morphine, fentanyl, oxycodone and analogs.

Central Nervous System (CNS) depressants commonly referred to as sedatives and tranquilizers function by slowing down the brain activity, resulting to drowsiness or calm. Another CNS depressant is alcohol which when combined with medication causes confusion, slows breathing, and may result in seizures.

CNS depressants are common prescriptions among patients with sleep disorders and anxiety. Some of the most popular CNS depressants include benzodiazepines (Valium & Xanax), barbiturates and sleep medications such as Ambien and Lunesta.

By mimicking and increasing the chemical structure of certain brain neurotransmitter, stimulants allow communication to take place in the body. Stimulants have the ability to improve attention, focus, alertness, and increase energy levels. Abusing these stimulants, on the other hand, causes high blood pressure, leads to anxiety and may cause heart attacks in certain cases.

Most ADHD sufferers have to undergo diagnosis with stimulants. Some of the popular and most abused stimulants include methylphenidates (Ritalin) and amphetamines (Adderall).

A study by Michigan University revealed that Vicodin (Painkiller) was the most abused prescription drug among high school seniors. This constitutes 8.1% of the pharmaceutical and nonmedical drugs used. Following closely was Adderall stimulant that stood at 6.5%.

Profile Of Prescription Drug Abuse

Prescription Drug Abuse

A report by the Substance Abuse and Mental health Services Administration (SAMHSA) indicated that 26 million American citizens aged between 26 and 50 have at a point in their lives used prescription medication inappropriately.

This may involve using the drugs for a non-medical or non-intended purpose. The study also revealed that 13 million Americans who are aged 50 and above had abused prescribed drugs while 9 million of the abusers of age between 18 to 25 years old.

Also, 3 million adolescents and teens aged 12 to 17 years have used prescribed drugs for non-medical purposes.

Regional analysis shows that prescription drug abuse prevalence is high in Kentucky, Arkansas, Nevada, Oregon, Tennessee, Wisconsin, and Oklahoma

Another worrying trend is the accessibility of prescription drugs. Statistics shows that 55% of non-medical drug users obtained the medications from a friend or a relative free of charge. Only 11.4% reported having purchased the drugs from a friend or a relative.

Another 2.3% reported having stolen the drugs from friends or relatives without their consent. Those that obtained the drugs from strangers or bought them from drug dealers only constituted 2.3%. This report clearly indicates that most abusers live near prescription drug dispensers or have a higher accessibility to prescribed drugs.

Regulation Of Prescription Drugs In America

Several measures have been put in place to regulate prescription medication in the U.S. Stringent, and lengthy prerequisites have to be met much earlier before the actual testing and experimentation.

There are certain vigorous standards for finally approving the drugs for use. The following government agencies have the responsibility of regulating prescribed medication:

  • Food and Drug Administration
  • Department of Justice
  • Drug Enforcement Administration

Each agency has a role to play, ranging from protecting the health of American Citizens to enforcing the law on proper medical use.

Medical Marijuana

Prescription Drug Abuse

There have been several controversies regarding the evolution of cannabis in the medical community. Marijuana, which was once illegal, found its way into the medical field after its synthetic version was created and later approved in the 1970s by the United States. Since then, Marijuana has been known to have some medical benefits. A good example is its use in chemotherapy among cancer patients.

Cannabis is used today to alleviate nausea and vomiting conditions, induced by chemotherapy treatments among cancer patients and also in treating glaucoma. Other uses of cannabis include treatment of Alzheimers, HIV/AIDS, sclerosis and opioid dependence. Another incredible use of cannabis is supporting treatment among opioid abusers and addicts. It helps to lessen the dependency on these drugs.

Marijuana use for medical purposes has been known to cause discussions among legislatures and is known for causing social and political controversies. 18 U.S.

states (Washington DC included) have legalized medical cannabis despite the fact that the FDA has not approved it. Despite being in use in parts of the United States, those prescribed to use the drug have to follow strict regulations regarding the amounts possessed.

Washington DC and Colorado were the first states to legalize the use of Marijuana in 2012 for recreational purposes. This does not mean that Marijuana is treated like other common prescription drugs.

Users have to adhere to the strict regulations regarding the place of purchase (dispensaries administered by the state) and the amounts that one is allowed to possess. However, personal sales, possessing more amounts than your age allows, and using the drug when you age is below 21, remain prohibited in both states.

The Future

What can we expect in the future with the issue of prescription drug abuse becoming rampant? It is clear that the issue is a giant beast that needs reckoning. The effects of prescription drug abuse are now rivaling those of illegal drugs.

In 2008 alone, more than half of the reported overdose death cases involved prescription drugs. Apart from causing deaths, prescriptions drug abuse is influencing insurance companies, healthcare systems, and the judiciary system.

The 2007 Coalition Against Insurance Fraud (CAIF) report indicated that the cost of prescription drug abuse amounts to over $70 billion. This increase is due to the rising number of emergency room visits, the assortment of health-related issues,

rehabilitation costs, prescription fraud that could see the premiums and cost insurers rise to $15,000 annually. In addition to that, a report by Clinical Journal Pain indicated that the productivity lost as a result of the prescription drug abuse is worth $42 billion while another $8.2 billion is used in prosecuting criminals. Thanks to prescription drug abuse.

The effects of the rising premiums couldn’t leave out the newborns. It may happen that in the future, babies born out of prescription drug abusers are likely to suffer from withdrawal symptoms, which means they will have to spend days or weeks in the hospital.

An article published in AnyTimes indicated that the number of neonatal abstinence syndrome cases reported in Maines two largest hospitals has risen from 70 in 2005 to 276 in 2010. This trend is undoubtedly troubling bearing in mind that treating a single baby for substance withdrawal would cost thousands of dollars.

Remember that it is not the hospitals and insurance companies alone that bear the burden of dealing with this swath, the prescription drug abuse is a thorn in the flesh for everybody. Lawmakers are having a hard time trying to figure out a possible solution to this dilemma that is evolving day by day. Challenges posed by the prescriptions drugs make the fight against this swath much more difficult. Unlike the case with illicit drugs, the issue of prescriptions drug abuse is ubiquitous.

The way prescription drugs and illicit drugs get into our hands makes the whole difference. The supply of illicit drugs such as heroin and cocaine goes through the hands of Central America while prescription drugs can be accessed from hospitals, clinic, pharmacies, and emergency rooms. Unlike the case with illicit drugs where you have to go through a dealer, a doctor is all you need to prescribe for you the drugs.

To battle this epidemic, the Drug Enforcement Agency is carrying out a crackdown on the entire process of distributing prescribed painkillers. From dispensaries to local pharmacies, all are strictly monitored across small suburban areas to major chains such as Walgreens. The move aims to restrict and regulate whatever pharmacists distribute to patients.

In a move to track down distributors and prescription drug abusers, 37 states came up with a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) as of October 2011. The PDMP, though not regulated by the DEA, collects data on prescriptions dispensed across the states. Eleven other states have followed suit and implemented the PDMP.

In the process of executing their tasks, Policy and Healthcare professionals have the challenge to live up to. They have to balance the prescription drug monitoring process and at the same time be careful not to infringe the privacy policy of patients. Another challenge is to ensure that those with legitimate medical needs don’t get interfered with.

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